Yesterday, I had the good fortune to meet Robert Cenedella, the subject of a heartfelt, insightful documentary, Art Bastard. Open and candid, Mr. Cenedella has a message about the state of today’s business of art: “It’s not what they show, It’s what they don’t show.”
Art Bastard is a new documentary produced by Chris T. Concannon, Concannon Productions, in association with Cavu Pictures, and celebrates the extraordinary life and work of painter Cenedella. Ten years in the making Concannon doggedly pursued the project rifling through directors until meeting writer and director, Victor Kanefsky.
In a Q & A, following last night’s Los Angeles pre-opening screening, Concannon quipped “in two days with Victor (Kanefsky) I accomplished more than I did with any other director in two years.”
In taking on the project, Kanefsy painstakingly poured through the hundred plus hours of film and pensively scoured the transcripts to reveal the truth of Robert Cenedella, the Art Bastard. Utilizing telling interviews with family members, New York power brokers, art students, art critics, museum curators and Mr. Cenedella himself, Kanefsky takes the viewer on an adventure through the Andy Warhol Pop Art era into the present day with Cenedella reflecting on his body of work as well as his current role as mentor and teacher at the Art Students League of New York.
What is revealed is an intimate portrait of the heart and soul of a young man who, upon being expelled for penning and distributing a satirical expose on the mundane routine of his high school’s Atom Bomb Drill, discovers himself and comes to terms with life on life’s terms through his commitment to his art. On more than one occasion, Cenedella mouths his mantra “I have a moral obligation to my artwork.”
Editor Jim MacDonald and Director of Photography Douglas Meltzer combine forces in presenting a dazzling array of shots zooming into the paintings of the Art Bastard mesmerizing the audience as minute details become postcard portraits unto themselves punctuated by Mario Sprouse’s musical score. And behind each painting lies a story.
A variety of Cenedella’s artwork is featured throughout Art Bastard including “Impeachment Off The Table” (2008), “Southern Dogs” (1965), “Heinz 57” (1963), “The Balcony” , “2001 – A Stock Odyssey” (1986) , “Santa Fe Rider” , “The Death of George Grosz” (1962) , the highly controversial “The Presence of Man” (1988) and the widely popular “Le Cirque – The First Generation” (1998). Other artists included are Warhol, Jackson Pollock, George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Reginald Marsh, Rembrandt, Raphael, El Greco and Hans Holbein the Elder. In addition, works by his Art Student League mentor George Grosz, whom Cenedella credits with forming his technique and claims he was the first adult he ever respected, are illustrated, presented and intertwined with the telling of the Art Bastard’s journey.
Cenedella lays claim to being “the most widely written about unknown artist in America.” Not for long, however. As the Art Bastard navigates the festival circuit, awards are being bestowed upon the filmmakers as they have garnered three 2016 winners, including Best Documentary at the Manchester Film Festival, Best Documentary at Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema, and Best Director, Documentary at Idyllwild. These follow the 2015 Focus On Art Award from the Orlando Film Festival and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Creativity at the Utopia Film Festival. Furthermore, Art Bastard was named an official selection for the Santa Fe Film Festival, the Big Apple Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Art Bastard opened June 3rd in New York and is scheduled to open this weekend, in Los Angeles, Calif., at the Laemmle’s Monica Film Center followed by Q & A’s with Robert Cenedella, The Art Bastard, after the Friday, June 17th 7:30 P.M. show and on Saturday June 18th after the 2:30 P.M., 5:00 P.M., and the 7:30 P.M. shows. His art exhibit will also be featured at the theater. The Los Angeles opening will be proceeded by a June 24th opening in Pasadena and Orange County.